We chose the Freedom as we could not get decently priced air from Detroit to Ft Lauderdale on Friday night or Saturday morning. We flew to Ft Lauderdale Saturday night and stayed at Springhill Suites/Dania beach. Free shuttle from airport to hotel and to ship the next day.
Arrived about 1pm at the pier and we were on board in 30 minutes. Cabin was ready and met our steward ALADDIN. Wonderful service for us and our two teen girls across the hall is 1017. Called us by name every time we saw him, prompt service and was there any time we needed anything.
Ate in the CHIC dining room with MY TIME dining every night. Tended to arrive about the same time every night so had SUKI as a waiter five out of six nights. He rememberer our names and drink and appetizer preferances every night...great service except a little slow at times - but that was no big deal. Food was very good - not the old days "excellent" but I always found something to enjoy. SUKI was a wonderful waiter.
Lido deck buffet was normally too crowded for our taste. Fighting for line space and table space is not fun...just too many people. Off peak times were better and the buffet food was good. Mongolian BBQ was great - too long of lines though (omelet station too). Fish and Chips was a nice alternative but too much breading on the fish. If they could manage the line length it would be an improvement. The other think lacking that other cruise lines had was fruit variety. Carnival had melon, canned peaches and grapefruit and oranges. NO Pineapple, Kiwi, berries, grapes, etc. Only the "cheapest" fruits and I missed the variety on Princess/NCL/Disney/RCCL. Also missed the choice of a better steak option than Flank Steak each night...no sirloin option let alone better grades. Filet was offered one night, and it was tasty.
Deck space for pool area chairs was at a premium on sea days. Too many people for too few chairs. TONS of teenagers but they were never a problem. The adults who overindulged were worse than the teens. Smokers were a bother at times even outside...one lady kept falling asleep with her lit cigarette danging from her hand over my stomach while laying on the deck chairs.
Key West we rented a four seater electric car. Would not do it again as the goal was to be able to go AROUND the island - but they said it would kill the battery. Soooo.... went to the Southernmost point and Duval and a little sightseeing.
Grand Cayman - Stingray City and two snorkel stops on a catamaran - awesome snorkeling and so glad I was not on the ship barges with a gazillion people.
Ocho Rios - Peat Taylor Tours Blue Hole and river tubing. AWESOME BLUE HOLE. There were just four of us and two guides - got to jump off cliffs into the water, swing on ropes in the jungle and more. They made us "Fern crowns" for the girls and a "king crown" for my husband. Could not believe the four of us had the place to ourselves. River tubing was great but the Blue Hole was unique and a riot. Could not believe a guide (Peat Jr) could say "ya mon" 64 times in twenty minutes - but he did. Great job and the first time I left Jamaica feeling like I did not need to run back onto the ship.
Entertainment - we hit the Big Easy show. We're big theater goers so we were not impressed but some others did like it. Enjoyed the comedy shows, but wish the later ones were not encore presentations.
SPA/GYM - only went to one "abs" class - only 15 min long. They charged for most other classes and I have a hard time paying $15 for a SPIN class when I have them at my home gym. Gym was never tooo crowded but since I rarely get to run around the deck, I chose that most days over an inside gym workout.
MUTS -wish the movies were recent and not repeated so often. I don't need to see NEMO six times when there are a zillion other family movies or teen movies than can run just one time each. Movies were often from the 80's or 90's and not recent releases. Princess definitely has them beat there...they had recent movies I had not seen while Carnival had ones my 17 year olds had not seen - as they were not born when they came out!
Debarkation - went in the early group (2) and were off the ship in ten minutes...no problem there.
Overall a great value for price paid vs the other ships. Carnival Freedom didn't have many things that the more expensive lines offered but when it was 80 degrees and sunny life was good anyway.